Forgery is the act of creating — or altering — written documents and/or other objects with the purpose of deceiving or tricking others. The most common occurrence of forgery occurs when someone steals a check, makes the check payable to himself/herself and then proceeds to cash the fraudulent check.
A common question for Arizona defendants charged with forgery is whether forgery is treated as a felony or misdemeanor in the state of Arizona. Here is what Arizona law has to say on the matter.
A.R.S. §13-2002 on Forgery
The criminal offense of forgery is governed by §13-2002 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, which states that a person commits forgery if, with the intent to defraud, a person:
- Falsely makes, completes or alters a written instrument
- Knowingly possesses a forged instrument
- Offers or presents a forged instrument or one that contains false information (whether the offered or presented forgery is accepted is irrelevant to this provision of the statute)
In the common check scenario mentioned previously, all three of the criteria for forgery, but it is worth noting a defendant only needs to engage in one of the three criteria to be convicted of forgery.
Additionally, if an Arizona individual possesses 5 or more forged instruments, Arizona law expressly states that this can lead to the inference that those instruments are possessed with an intention to defraud.
Penalties for an Arizona Forgery Conviction
If an Arizona defendant is convicted of committing forgery under the terms of §13-2002, the offense will generally be classified as a Class 4 felony. Class 4 felonies in Arizona carry a presumptive sentence term of two years and six months in prison, according to A.R.S. 13-701. Based on this classification, a first offense forgery conviction could lead to a punishment of probation with up to a year spent in jail or a prison sentence ranging from 1 to 3.75 years of incarceration.
If a defendant has been convicted of an allegeable forgery conviction previously, then the prison sentence duration increases to a range between 2.25 years and 7.5 years of incarceration. If a defendant has two allegeable historical convictions previously, then the prison sentence range becomes 6 to 15 years of incarceration.
However, if a forged instrument was used in “connection with the purchase, lease or renting of a dwelling that is used as a drop house, then the forgery in question will be treated as a Class 3 felony. For reference, “drop house” is meant to refer to a property used to facilitate smuggling, as outlined by A.R.S. §13-2319.
A Class 3 forgery of this nature carries with it the risk of a presumptive term of three years and six months in prison. The severity of a Class 4 or 3 forgery conviction makes it imperative for defendants to seek out the legal representation of an Arizona criminal defense lawyer who will explore every possible legal defense.
Legal Defenses to a Forgery Charge
There are a number of legal defenses that can lead to a forgery charge being reduced or even dismissed entirely. A common legal defense is that the defendant had consent from the check owner or someone else who gave permission — and had the authority to do so — on the owner’s behalf to add the owner’s signature.
Another potential legal defense, if applicable, may be that the defendant had no knowledge the instrument was forged when they offered or presented it to be accepted.
Exploring all defenses are vital when attempting to fight the serious consequences of a felony charge and conviction, which is why defendants need an Arizona criminal defense attorney who leaves no stone unturned while providing legal representation.
At Tyler Allen Law Firm, we understand how important your future is. That’s why we work hand-in-hand with you to get the best possible result for your situation. If you are looking for a criminal defense attorney to help you with your forgery charges, we are here to help. We offer flat fees for most services. Contact us today for a free consultation!